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Pectoralis Major Muscle: Chest, Shoulder, Upper Back, Arm, Hand Pain

Pectoralis Major Pain Pattern

Pain in the chest, shoulder and going down the inside of the arm into the middle and ring finger can indicate pectoral major dysfunction. The pec major can also contribute to pain in the upper back in between and around the shoulder blades.

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain in the inner arm, inner elbow traveling down to the into the middle and ring fingers
  • Breast pain
  • Upper back pain between and around the shoulder blades
  • Pain when trying to reach behind the body
  • Rounded shoulder posture
  • Contributor to forward head posture

Where is the pectoralis major muscle?

The pectoralis major covers the upper chest connecting the sternum, the cartilage of the first 6 ribs and the white sheath of the obliques and the rectus abdominis to the humerus bone of the upper arm.

What movements does the pectoralis major muscle control?

  • Lowers the arm back toward the body when arm is extended to the side
  • Moves the arm in toward the body
  • Moves arm in and across the front of the body

Activities that cause pain and symptoms of the pectoralis major muscle:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Working with your arms out in front of you (computer)
  • Driving and horseback riding: both require you to hold your arms up and in front of your body
  • Keeping your shoulders rolled forward or pulled up
  • Slouching
  • Carrying a heavy purse or backpack on one shoulder
  • Large breasts

Interesting facts about the pectoralis major muscle:

  • Poland’s syndrome also known as Poland’s anomaly is a rare congenital anomaly in which the pectoral muscles are underdeveloped or absent on one side of the body. The condition affects the arm and hand on the side which is affected. French boxing silver and bronze Olympic medal winner Jerome Thomas is affected on the left side of his body.  His left arm is shorter than the right he has a small left hand. His pectoral muscle is absent on the left side.

    PGA golfer Bryce Molder also is affected with Poland’s syndrome on his left side. He too is missing the pectoral muscle on his left side and has a small left hand.

Pectoralis Major Muscle

You use the pectoralis major muscle to raise your arms in front of your body, twist the arms in toward the body, and move your arms across the body.

Clinical diagnoses to which this muscle symptoms may contribute:

  • Bicipital tendonitis
  • Costochondritis
  • Supraspinatus tendonitis
  • Subacromial Bursitis
  • Medial epicondylitis
  • Lateral epicondylitis
  • Pleurisy
  • Ankylosing spondylosis
  • Angina pectoris
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Gallbladder dysfunction
  • Heart disease

Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the pectoralis major:

Satellite Trigger Points: Anterior and Posterior Deltoid, Sternocleidomastoid, Scalenes, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, Middle Trapezius, Teres Major, Subscapularis, Serratus Anterior, Coracobrachialis, Teres Minor, Infraspinatus

Affected Organ Systems: Respiratory and Cardiovascular System

For detailed anatomy information: Pectoralis Major Anatomy

Help with Pectoralis Major Muscle Pain and Symptoms

Cold Therapy Gel For Pectoralis Muscle Injury and Pain

Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel is an excellent pain relieving gel and I use it for those who have sudden onset muscle pain or recent injuries.  It is better than warm therapy gels and creams for recent injury muscle pain as it cools the area much like ice and does not promote swelling. A recent study showed that Biofreeze decreased pain 2 times more than ice and the pain relief lasts 9 – 10 longer. If  your pain is from a recently pulled pec muscle I would recommend Biofreeze.

Biofreeze is recommended for recent muscle injury

Warm Therapy Gel for Chest, Shoulder and Upper Back Muscle Pain Caused By The Pectoral Muscles

Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel is a pain relieving gel that I use both personally and professionally in my massage therapy practice. Unlike other over the counter heating creams, it provides warmth without burning heat.  Applying Sombra to the chest muscles and into the shoulders can help relieve soreness and  stiffness in the chest and front shoulder area. It can also help relieve upper back pain which is often a result of tight pectorial muscles. I recommend Sombra for chronic pain and chronically sore tight muscles.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel provides pain relief.

Hot Cold Packs For Pectoralis Pain and Injury

SofTouch Large Hot Cold Pack  is a large pack that can be used for hot or cold treatment. The pack is large enough to lay across the chest to treat the pectoralis muscle. It can also be used on the back to relieve upper back pain caused by the pec muscles. The inside of the pack contains a clay-like substance that remains soft and pliable so you can mold the pack to your body. The outside of the pack is wrapped with soft suede like material that does not shock the skin when touched. My clients love this pack and it is now the only hot and cold pack that I use in my massage therapy practice.


Relax and Stretch The Pectoral Muscles To Help Shoulder, Neck and Upper Back Pain

Soothe-a-ciser: Relief for neck and shoulder pain helps relieve pressure and pain in the neck and shoulders.  10 - 15 minutes laying on the pillow allows muscles in the neck, chest, shoulders and upper back to relax and can relieve or even stop some headaches. It can work especially well for those with tight painful pectoral (chest)  muscles, and people who have slumping upper posture or rounded shoulders. A great pillow for people who work at desks and computers!


Supportive Brace for Pectoral Muscle Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

Rounded shoulders and slumping upper body posture are often caused by shortened tight pectoralis muscles which over stretches upper back muscles causing sore and painful upper back muscles. If you are having upper back pain across the shoulders, going down the middle upper back to the shoulder blades, chances are the pain is caused by the pectoralis muscles.

ShouldersBack Posture Support gently pulls your shoulders back helping you maintain straight correct posture while stretching and elongating the chest muscles.

I use this brace myself when I begin to feel twinges of pain in my shoulders and upper back. I have recommended it to family, friends, and clients who have pain due to slumping upper body and rounded shoulder posture. If you have rounded shoulders, begin using the brace slowly for short periods of time. As your body adjusts, you can tighten the support and use it for longer time periods. This brace is not a rigid support, you can still move comfortably and freely, it does not forcibly hold your shoulders down and back.


Self Treatment Help For Chest, Shoulder, Arm and Upper Back Muscle Pain Caused By Pectoralis Major Muscle

The pectoral muscles contribute to pain in the chest, shoulders, arms and upper back. If you are suffering with unresolved pain in these areas consider purchasing Claire Davies  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. Mr. Davies explains the trigger point phenomenon and muscle pain in everyday language.  But what makes this book worth its weight in gold are the individual muscle trigger point treatments that Davies has compiled. His diagrams and step by step instructions help you locate which muscles are contributing to your pain,  how to find the trigger point and treat it. It takes time and practice to master finding trigger points, but once you learn you have a tool and method to help relieve muscle pain throughout the body. If you are suffering from unrelenting shoulder, arm and upper back pain treating the trigger points in the pectoralis major muscle can help reduce or eliminate you pain.  This book is a must-have for anyone interested in finding the cause and treating muscle pain.

The Trigger Point Workbook can help you resolve muscle pain throughout your body.

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